If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Numbers 25, Psalm 68, Isaiah 15, 1 Peter 3. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Numbers 25.
With God as their Lord, Israel was like a military freight train—an unstoppable army that would blast through any nation that opposed her or lived in her land. Way back in Numbers 22, the king of Moab, “Balak son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites, and Moab was terrified because there were so many people. Indeed, Moab was filled with dread because of the Israelites” (Num 22:2-3). For the past several chapters in Numbers we have been reading about how the king of Moab tried to stop this freight train from plowing through his kingdom. His strategy was to entice Balaam to call down a curse on Israel. It is unclear whether Balaam was a true prophet and non-Jewish worshipper of God or a false prophet that God decided to use in this case but, whichever it was, God was clearly speaking through Balaam. Although Balak king of Moab was looking for someone to curse Israel, all Balaam did was pronounce prophetic blessings on God’s people. This angered Balak (24:10-11) and, at the end of yesterday’s reading in Numbers 24, these two men ended their collaboration and Balaam returned to his home (Num 24:25).
Here in Numbers 25, however, we see, unexpectedly, a curse fall on Israel. It was not a curse brought on supernaturally by God by a prophetic utterance. Instead, it was brought on them by their own disobedience to God’s commands. God had preserved Israel as a separate nation in Egypt and kept them from intermarrying with the Egyptians which would cause them to lose their distinct national identity. God gave them all kinds of laws many of which were non-moral but designed to keep Israel worshipping the true God and to keep them distinct and separate from their neighbors. But, despite God’s commands not to worship other gods and not to commit adultery, here in Numbers 25 God’s people forsake God’s commands and engage in idolatry and adultery with the Moabites. Passages such as Revelation 2:14 (and others) tell us what Numbers does not—that although he could not prophetically curse God’s people, Balaam taught the Moabites how to create a curse organically by sinning against God in adultery and idolatry. Because they disobeyed God’s word, which was designed to bless them, “the Lord’s anger burned against them” (v. 3). The rest of chapter 25 describes the devastation that God’s punishment brought on his people.
Israel’s experience in this passage should sober us and warn us. We ask for God’s blessings in our lives and God has blessed us immensely in Christ. While the world and the devil would love to see us fall under the curse of God’s judgment, God’s promises in Christ stand between us and their desire to harm us. What removes God’s blessings in our lives and causes us to miss all he wants for us to have in Christ is our own choices to sin against God’s word. Remember James 4:4, which we read last week: “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” Sin is so damaging in so many ways but one of them that we should keep in mind is how it cuts us off from God’s blessings and makes us an object of his displeasure. Because Christ bore the wrath for our sins, we don’t ever need to fear being lost and becoming God’s enemies in the sense of losing our salvation. But when we sin, we do lose the power of God and his blessings in our lives and, instead, expose ourselves to the consequences that are embedded automatically in many sins. Our worship and daily exposure to God’s word is designed by our Lord to protect us from the deceitfulness of sin so that we can live in God’s power and enjoy his blessings in our lives.
Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.